The 2017-18 academic year is here! I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am.
As your dean of students and vice provost for the Division of Student Life, I know that each of you has a story to tell. You all enter this semester on different journeys, with a variety of life experiences. Some of you are new to campus as first-year or transfer students, while many of you are returning, looking to deepen your academic and campus involvement. Regardless of who you are or where you’re from: Welcome! You belong here.
Summer has flown by, as I’m sure many of you can relate. For me, it’s been transformative. As many of you know, this past spring and summer, I’ve been going through chemotherapy after a spring breast cancer diagnosis. Last week, I celebrated my final treatment. I continue to be humbled by and grateful for the outpouring of support from across campus – thoughtful cards, beautiful scarves, encouraging emails, and cheerful tweets. Some of you have shared personal stories about how cancer has touched your lives. Your stories gave me strength to push through to the end and I thank you for that.
Admittedly, the last treatment was the hardest. Chemotherapy is a cumulative process, and each session is harder on the body than the last. What got me through the final leg, is you – our students – and the energy and excitement that comes with a new academic year. Thank you.
To return the favor, I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned in hopes that it can help you as we begin our time together.
This experience has deepened my understanding of the importance of fully being present with the people in our lives. I encourage you to truly listen to and engage with those around you – today, here and now. Remind yourself to put down your phone, take a break from Netflix and connect with those around you with kindness, compassion and care for one another. That is the greatest gift I have received, and I’m passing it along to you.
I’ve also realized the value of being fully present in our work and on our campus. My hope is that you embrace the opportunity of being here to further develop the person you are becoming. Whether you’re new to campus or poised to graduate, embrace the educational opportunities, in and out of the classroom. Seek opportunities to get involved and make change in your community. Cancer gave me the opportunity to further my understanding of who I’m becoming and I will no longer take such opportunities for granted.
Speaking of not taking things for granted: my hair. I will never complain about the length, color, or texture again! Whatever kind of hair day I’m having, it’s a hair day, and I’m grateful for it.
Even as the chemo has ended, I’ll still be wearing hats. Lots of hats. Please check out my welcome video. And like you, I will continue to be resilient while navigating the challenges of life.
I want to close with a few tips for a successful year:
- Make the most of your Wisconsin Experience: College is more than the time you spend in class. I hope you’ll consider what you want your Wisconsin Experience to be. Get started by exploring and joining in the Wisconsin Welcome events and use #wiwelcome to join the conversation on social media. I plan to be at many of the events, including the Student Organization Fair in the Kohl Center … Look for me there!
- Be prepared. Read your class assignments. Spend time understanding the material. Seek assistance or help early if you are struggling. There are resources that can help you be successful at the UW-Madison.
- Be open and present. Introduce yourself to five new people over the next few weeks and truly listen to their voices. You’ll never know what you might have in common or what you will able to learn from others unless you make an effort to meet.
- Help create a welcoming campus climate. Join the effort to make our campus more inclusive for all Badgers – say hello, smile, and demonstrate warmth and kindness toward one another. UW-Madison is committed to creating a community where all feel welcome and belong.
- Be healthy. It’s good for your body and mind. Eat a balanced diet. Drink plenty of water. And get some sleep! Stay healthy with tips from University Health Services.
- If you choose to drink, be smart about alcohol use. One of the leading predictors for students performing poorly academically is high-risk alcohol use. Consider the consequences of high-risk drinking. And know that bystanders who act responsibly and victims who are hurt while underage drinking are not subject to disciplinary action. For more information, see the UW-Madison Responsible Action Guidelines, which includes the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act – Biennial Review
- Ask for what you need. If you need assistance or support along the way, reach out to a faculty or staff member or someone in my office (email@example.com). We’re here to support your success.
- Finally, many of you may not know this, we are on Ho-Chunk land. The Madison area and UW-Madison specifically, contain many archaeological sites, which reveals the thousands of years that the Ho-Chunk Nation and other Native Americans have lived and called this land home. It is sacred, please join me in honoring and respecting their history.
I hope to see many of you on campus and at different events. I have office hours most Friday afternoons. Please stop by and say hello! I’d love to hear your story. Until then …
Vice Provost for the Division of Student Life and Dean of Students
“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
– John Watson